Classification : As you know, classification (also called grouping) involves putting together things that have some characteristic in common. We can say that a child is able to classify only if she is able to decide upon the criterion for classification, and maintain it throughout the activity. This ability forms a basis for the development of logical and mathematical concepts.
Children often classify while doing everyday activities. When a child is asked to put a doll's clothes in one bag and the doll's ornaments in another, or to put the unclean plates in one tub and the clean ones in another, or to separate squares and triangles from paper cut outs, she is classifying. But we need to give children more opportunities for classification, to develop this ability in them. This can be done very easily through play.
Before discussing some activities, let us look at some points that are important to keep in mind while devising them.
i) While organising a task for a child, we must keep in mind what she is familiar with, and her capabilities. If we don't do this then the child may not be able to do the activity. Therefore, we must build the activities around objects and situations that she is familiar with .
ii) It is important to observe a child in different situations before coming to any conclusions about her abilities. Recent research shows that preschoolers can classify in some situations that are meaningful to them and in which they clearly understand what has to be done.
lii) We must encourage children to talk about what they are doing in an activity. This helps us to know how far the children have understood the concept of classification. It will also help them to develop concepts of 'same', 'different' and 'belong to', which are basic to classification.
Questions like "Why have you made the groups like this ?" and "What is common between these things you have placed together?", help them to clarify their thoughts and improve their understanding.
iv) In the initia1, activities the basis for classification should be one property only. Gradually, as children learn to classify at this level, you can increase the complexity of the task. Then you can ask them to classify on the basis of two properties such as colour and size, or shape and colour, and so on. Many preschoolers would find such classification activities difficult because there is more than one way of classification.